This dessert is a classic French pastry with a frangipane filling, which is found in many Italian-inspired desserts. Frangipane, is made from almonds ground together with sugar and eggs.
Traditionally, frangipane is a filling made from or flavored with almonds. Frangipane/frangipani is derived from frangere il pane (Italian for “break the bread”). This filling can be used in a variety of ways including cakes, tarts and other assorted pastries, such as the Jesuite. A French spelling from a 1674 cookbook is franchipane with the earliest modern spelling coming from a 1732 confectioners’ dictionary. Originally designated as a custard tart flavored by almonds or pistachios it came later to designate a filling that could be used in a variety of confections and baked goods. Frangipane is one of France’s many traditional foods associated with Christmas celebration.
Today it is normally made of butter, sugar, eggs, and ground almonds.
Frangipane, also know as frangipani in Italian and crème frangipane in French, is as rich and velvety as it sounds. It is an almond pastry cream that is used as a filling in tarts, cakes and assorted pastries. It is comprised of creamed butter and sugar, with eggs and finely ground almonds added in. The term can be used to refer to both the almond cream itself or the pastry that is filled with it.
While most pastry terms reflect a characteristic of the substance or technique they refer to, that is not the case in for the mysterious origins of frangipane. The word frangipani itself is actually derived from the Italian phrase “frangere il pane,” which means “bread-breakers.” One legend states that this name was bestowed upon a noble Italian family in the 11th century for their generosity in distributing bread to the poor during a time of great famine. Sifting through the lore of this lusciousness, there are upon two possible origins of the almond cream moniker, featuring members of the Frangipani family, nearly three centuries apart.
One such account of the origin of frangipane features the 13th Century Italian noblewoman who married into the Frangipani family, Jacopa da Settesoli, and St. Francis of Assisi. She was a young widow when she heard of the holy man. Desiring to meet the penitent in order to seek his spiritual advice, Upon meeting St. Francis, Jacopa became a follower and benefactor of his. Francis advised her not to abandon her family. She was so moved by St. Francis that she joined the Third Order of Saint Francis, turning administration of her affairs over to her two sons. Francis and Lady Jacoba became friends and she spent of the rest of her life in service to him and others in need, in the practice of good works. When he travelled to Rome, Francis would stay as her guest. She gave some of her family’s property in Trastevere, Rome to Francis and the brothers to use as a hospice for lepers and she provided for their needs. St. Francis had given Jacoba the title of “Brother” in gratitude for her service and determination, a title that allowed her entry into the friary to visit with the dying St. Francis at a time where women were forbidden to enter. It was said that St. Francis requested her appearance at his death bed and asked that she bring with her an almond sweet that she had made him during one of his visits to her in Rome. While it is believed that he was too ill to consume it, this sweet nonetheless became known as frangipani.
Another account is that this almond cream’s namesake was a 16th century Italian nobleman living in Paris by the name of Marquis Muzio Frangipani. Frangipani was the inventor of a popular accessory of the time, bitter almond perfumed gloves, said to have been worn by Louis XIII. It is believed that in order to capitalize on the popularity of these almond scented gloves, pâtisseries flavored pastry cream with almonds and called it “frangipane.”
On Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son as human in Jesus Christ, where the French cut the King Cake, a round cake made of frangipane layers, into slices to be distributed by a child known as le petit roi (the little king) who is usually hiding under the dining table. The cake is decorated with stars, a crown, flowers and a special bean hidden inside the cake. Whoever gets the piece of the frangipane cake with the bean is crowned “king” or “queen” for the following year. Sounds similiar to the King Cake served throughout the Carnival season and associated with Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana.
It is believed the festivities of Carnival were brought to Louisiana by French-Canadian explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. He led an expedition on behalf of the French crown and on March 2, 1699, he set up camp along the Mississippi River, 60 miles south of the present location of New Orleans. It just so happened the next day was Mardi Gras, and so began its celebration.
But whatever the origin of this sweet cream filling, it makes for a stellar dessert in shape, form of fashion.
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, about 10 x 14-inches, thawed
1 1/2 cups of toasted almonds or finely ground almond flour
½ cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick Lurpak, or any European style, unsalted butter, softened
2 large fresh eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 large baking apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Purchased or homemade salted caramel sauce, for serving
For the Frangipane:
Process whole toasted almonds or almond flour until finely ground. It is wise to use the pulsing method for processing the almonds to avoid over-grinding them into an almond paste.
Use the creaming method to beat the softened butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium speed in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, if using a hand held mixer add 2 additional minutes.
Add the ground almonds and beat on medium speed until blended, approximately 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
Break the eggs in a separate bowl and add the eggs one at a time on medium-low speed, beating well after each addition.
Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the 3 tablespoons of flour. Beat on low speed until just incorporated, approximately 1 minute.
This frangipane is now ready to be used as is or flavored as your favorite tart or pastry recipe calls for. This mixture can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to a week.
For the Galette:
Preheat an oven to 350°F .
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 16 x 14-inch rectangle. Carefully roll the pastry around your rolling pin and transfer it to a 9- or 10-inch ovenproof fry pan, pressing it gently into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to fill.
In a bowl, toss the apple slices with the freshly squeezed lemon juice to coat.
To assemble the galette, pour the almond mixture into the pastry-lined pan and spread evenly. Arrange the apple slices evenly on top of the almond mixture, overlapping them slightly. Fold the excess puff pastry back over the edges of the pan to form a rim or crimp the pastry decoratively. Brush the pastry with the egg wash.
Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the apples are tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of ice cream and salted caramel sauce on top.